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Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

I am in love with the horror writing of Jonathan Janz. It is vicious, scary and sometimes downright dark (and possibly disturbing). In other words, books to curl up with at the fireplace with your bearpaw slippers, as you sup on milk and cookies. What? No. Or so I’ve heard. But enough about my … um, reading habits and let’s get on with the bleedy review. Yeah?

Needless to say, the cover of this book conveyed all the fear that it could possibly entail and then some (feel free to look at the cover … intimidating, yes …. well, good). Species originally revolves around two groups of people: Charly and her husband Eric; and a local newspaper crew (Jesse, Emma, and Colleen). Charly is a housewife with a newborn and two daughters (and apparently scorchingly hot) that is married to cheating wanker of husband named Eric. Apparently Eric is a volleyball coach that has thing for younger assistant coaches (who … surprise, surprise … often turn out to be young women). Despite his cheating, the thorn in his side is Sam Bledsoe, a contractor that is doing some renovations to his house. Yes, Sam is slightly older, divorced, knows a lot about home renovations (despite Eric’s awful, ignorant micromanaging) and a good looking, manly man-type. I imagine him as Sam Elliot in his forties (what … I like Sam Elliot … think what you want). And unlike Eric, Sam is actually decent to Charly and not because she often agrees with him over her husband’s ridiculous suggestions on home improvement. The truth is Sam Bledsoe is a decent chap (kinda like Sam Elliot … I’m never going to live that down, am I … very well). On the other side is the equation is a local newspaper crew consisted of Jesse, Emma and Colleen, that are on assignment to cover the opening weekend of a recreational park area called the (refrain from laughter) Peaceful Valley Nature Preserve. And there is a bit of soap opera going on here. Apparently Jesse has the hots for Emma but loves her from a distance. Colleen is a no-nonsense woman but, gleefully, senses this about Jesse.
Though it is not exactly the assignment they dreamed of they arrive at the Nature Preserve expecting a crateload of boredom and instead finding a college frat party. And rivals to Jesse’s affections. During the first evening, the three explore the grounds and the forested area with a large river where Jesse encountered a winged-monstrosity of a shadow in the night sky. At first he thought it was just some environmental effect wreaking havoc with his vision. And then there were the strange sounds. The woods that line the housing developments have always troubled Sam Bledsoe, for at night he always found those woods unnerving. Meanwhile, Charly is in the process of putting her children to bed, when she encounters a strange, naked, (over nine feet tall) humanoid creature with green eyes and feral teeth standing in her newborn’s room. Before she could scream, the creature grabs her newborn and leaps from a second story window and runs off into the woods. Back in the Nature Preserve, Jesse is standing the shadows of the woods watching Emma flirt with a jock-type when suddenly a bunch of tall creatures (think subterranean creatures of Descent except slight taller and some near Cloverdale sized) ran out of the woods and proceed to slaughter everyone at the party. What is even more disturbing is that some of these creatures, bearing exaggerated-size organs (that would probably give the likes of Ron Jeremy an inferior complex), and aside from mauling, engage in rape (of mostly deceased females). And then, the real horror begins (yes, you’ve read correctly).
Species is little under 300 pages, and the first 30-50 pages there is calmness. Beyond that it is ongoing, relentless intrigue, ghastliness, gore and … horror. And Janz does not make it boring or repetitive. It is possibly the first horror book I’ve ever read where the action stretched over several hundred pages. And along the blood-splattered journey we encounter Frank Red Elk. Yes, Frank is wisecracking Native American that has lived near and the preserve for many years … and knows about the existence of these monstrous creatures. He is also a porn aficionado. And as the two groups paths converge, they find themselves under the guidance of Frank, who not only makes it his duty to “compliment” some of the women of the group by telling them that they resemble certain porn stars but would at the most inappropriate times (usually when their lives were in peril) decide to discuss the differences between soft and hard core porn. Yes, I must confess (shamefully) that I visited Google on several occasions and found myself transported back to my Cinemax days that featured many of Frank’s infatuation. BTW, who still watches Cinemax … just asking … not judging.
Species IS a train ride of terror, where all the doors and windows are welded shut with steel bars, the cabins are splattered with blood, the brakes are destroyed and the end of the line results in the train plunging into a deep chasm. And the passengers know this. Sure it might give you some sleepless nights if you live near wooded areas that are filled with strange nightly sounds and I apologize to my mates that live in certain New England and Southern States. Caution to readers: try NOT to get too attached to the characters. Game of Thrones has nothing on Species (and don’t worry, I won’t detour by ranting about the last season … it’s probably been said ad nauseum). Jonathan Janz, I love you. Maybe more than Sam Elliot. Maybe.

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I’ve been watching a bunch of recent “horror” releases on DVD and it is sad to report that the art of horror movie making is becoming an endangered art. Has anyone seen that pile of buggering bollocks called Searching? Aye, at the end of the movie you’ll be “searching” for those 90 minutes of your life that you gave to watch this “thriller”. Thankfully, the world of literary horror is alive and doing quite well. I keep running into such delightful writers (i.e. through books that appear on my stack). So as I was reading the synopsis of Siren, I was, most naturally, intrigued especially when Mr. Janz was being heralded as the next best thing in modern horror. And maybe it was that exquisitely haunting book cover. So enough with the pleasantries and other such bollocks and let’s get on with the bleedy review. Yeah?

David Caine is a famous skeptic of the paranormal/supernatural world. That’s just a nice way of saying that this bloke doesn’t believe in ghosts and other such bollocks. Then one day, David is invited by an old friend (Chris and his wife Katherine) to spend a month in the most haunted house in Virginia: the Alexander house. A house built in the 1700s by a land baron to simply contain the depraved whims and fancies (sprinkled with a shitload of madness) of his eldest son, Judson. As David takes up the challenge and moves into the Alexander house, he finds himself surrounded by the strangest set of neighbours: a family that rewrites the definition of dysfunction (nymphomaniac housewife with a penchant for kinky porn/sex with a very enabling husband and two children are witnesses to the ongoing debauchery), a very reclusive neighbour that fishes and own shotgun, a no-nonsense female sherriff, a fiery woman that reminds him of a past love, and a precocious convenient store clerk. It doesn’t take very long for things to go bump in the night (actually on night ONE) and the novel does keep up the pace … and then accelerates. There are very dark ulterior motives and secrets at play and some folks aren’t what they seem to be … or know. Along with demons of the past of certain woman that he turned away (with tragic consequences) David is forced to deal with crazy neighbours, strange happenings going in the Alexandria house and strange woman that haunts the nearby bay with an alluring singing voice (in case you missed it, that would be the siren). But in that little hamlet, in Virginia, things aren’t all they seem, dark forces and secrets are coming forth, some folks know more than they’re saying and there are things that are going bump in the night aside from David’s new randy neighbour. David skepticism in the paranormal is about to take a flying leap out the window and to make things worse, he is closely evaluating his friendship with Chris. Stars, paths and events align from his past, reach out and converge with his current quest in the most shocking manner that will cause your jaw to drop right into that puddle of fright-induced piss.
Though he has written prior to this title, this is my first book by Jonathan Janz and it impressed the heck (among other things) out of me. Siren spares little, starts early, and amps up the terror that’ll make you, calmly, put your book down and turn on a few more lights in the house, especially on a cold windy night. With tree branches hitting your window. And though the art of horror movies are fast becoming a dying art, it is pleasant to know that written horror forges on with newer faces and talent. I look forward to his next book … as I try to get some sleep.

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It’s been a few years since I read the last Weird Wild West book that was written by R.S. Belcher and needless to say I’ve been “jonesing” for more of tales from the Weird Wild West. So like any “junkie” that’s thirsty I reached for the next best thing for my literary “high” from Mr. Belcher. It’s like thinking that you settled for a whole bag of questionable bathtub meth and ended up with a bag of premium Peruvian blow … at bathtub meth prices. Meet Nightwise. But before I continue rambling on with drug metaphors that would most likely put me on certain law enforcement radars … I think it would be best if I just shut up with the bollocks and move on with the bloody book review. Yeah? Why not.

Nightwise takes place in the current world where magic, sorcery, necromancy, and alchemy goes by side by side with technology. Or as those immersed in it would call it … The Life. And we’re not talking about that Harry Potter, hocus-pocus-dysfunctim-erectus bollocks. Oh no, no, NO. This is the kind of magic that bring stuff that goes bump in the night into your room as you sleep at night while it sits on you and decides what to do with daft mortal that felt that they could mess with the unknown. Laytham Ballard is one such, immersed in The Life, known as a wizard (though he may correct you and say the actual term is Wisdom). He is Mickey Spillane meets Constantine meets Nathan Drake (from Uncharted … aye, I’m a gamer) meets Tyler Durden. Yes, your typical anti-hero. When a deathbed promise, to a dying friend, puts him on the trail of Dusan Slorzack (Serbian war criminal extraordinaire) the shit basically hits the fan (and quite early in the book). The problem with Slorzack is that he can’t be found on earth. All traces of him has vanished from the digital and magical databases. Even the Devil can’t find him, and Dusan owes him his dues. Needless to say, Dusan is into some really scary stuff that would make every who has ever bitched about Harry Potter books reconsider their perspective. Though Laytham is quite the solo act, he has no other choice but to team up with an usual bunch: magical hackers, a fetish model, a transgender Australian shaman, a Japanese gun master and Templar truckers (more on that … in another book). And it is good thing, since he’s up against vicious invisible hellhounds, backstabbing necromancers/summoners, magical boobytraps, scary god-like creatures, and bankers (yes, you are reading right). And in this world filled with magical ley-lines and other such bollocks it is hard divine who is trustworthy and who is not, and people are sometimes more than what they seem.

Written in first person (Laytham’s) perspective, Belcher does not hold back and it is quite THE ride. Along with acidic and dark humour, Laytham is the kind of chap that we can hate but still root for. And though this book is fiction (at least I’m really hoping it is) let’s just say I wouldn’t be picking up any white Bic lighters I find lying around especially in restrooms (trust me on this … it’s in the book). For those that miss Belcher’s Weird Wild West writings … fear not, he’s brought us into the 21st century and what a blast is … all the way down to the last page. Might not want to look too closely and ponder about certain symbols on your US dollar bills if you care about sleeping well at night after reading this book. And the silver lining about this is that … it is the first book in a series. Yes, we are not completely done with Mr. Ballard. Jolly good show, Mr. Belcher. Jolly good show.

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Ever since reading My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Mr. Hendrix has struck a chord in my mind. So as I was going through the list of books to select to purchase for my branch, I came across We Sold Our Souls. Needless to say, I gave it the green light because I am curious to see what delightful ditties this bloke is offering up in this new yarn. Spoiler alert: he did not disappoint. But enough with pleasantries and usual bollocks, and let’s get on with it. Yeah?

All Kris Pulaski ever wanted to do was to play good rock music. Fame and riches were all extras. So back in the 90s (ah yes … flannel, grunge rock, Tamagochi pets, dial-up AOL internet), she was part of ragtag metal band called Dürt Würk and she was living her dream. Then along the way, she and lead singer, Terry Hunt, combined talent and wrote a masterpiece called Troglodyte. And then the shit (slightly) hit the fan. Terry Hunt along with their manager, Rob Anthony, pulled the rug from under the enter party by buying out the rights to Dürt Würk’s music and contracting out all the other members of the band. It was the night (known as Contract Night) that Dürt Würk died and Koffin was born. The funny thing about that is that there is a lot of missing pieces and hours about what happened that night Kris and most of the members of the group can’t seem to recall. So now Kris spends her days at a reception desk at the local Westin Inn as she constantly tangles with the one guest that likes to stroll around, during the early morning hours, naked with a paper bag over his head and urinating in the lobby. How the far the mighty has fallen, since Kris can no longer play rock music since the “contract” forbids her from playing Dürt Würk-type music (translation: she is forbidden to make a living playing rock music). And then Koffin announces its major tour, which not only irritates the hell out of Kris but forces her to reunite with the remaining (exiled) members of Dürt Würk. And then the shit really hits the fan … and things get darker. And for some of us, switching on the lights might be in order. There are murderous assassins driving around in UPS trucks, brainwashing spas, traitorous fans, some otherworldly hellish creatures (which might include the manager) haunting the night, and a conspiracy that is spawned from the depths of Hell itself (literally). On second thought some of these creatures might be from Hell (feel free to imagine Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden screaming this word for a better visual). And all are clamouring to get between Kris and her vengeful mission against Terry Hunt and his new band, Koffin.

Hendrix’s Souls is possibly one of his darkest to boot with enough hibby-jibbies to go around possibly till the next major election. Of course, there is a bit of (deserving) commentary on the late 90s “nu-metal” scene. Yes, we all remember that pile of buggering bollocks (though try as we may to forget it). Aye, as grunge faded into the horizon along came that hybrid abomination of rap and rock merged into (and I vomit into my mouth as I write this) nu-metal. Of course, back then the wanks that touted this rap-rock/nu-metal crap as “new” and “happening” forgot that folks like Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone (to name a few) had already pioneered that “hybrid” minus the constant whining about not getting laid and other such bollocks. Oh there, there. I think I’ve detoured a wee bit. Souls waste very little effort in sinking its claws into you and drawing you in, and then you find yourself in for quite a ride. And what a ride it is as you get towards the end. The ending reminds of scene from an obscure 80s, heavy-metal themed, adult, animated movie (from Canada,of all places) named Rock and Rule (check it out on Youtube and it features voices of Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop). It may not be your cup of tea, but back in Guyana, there was only one channel on the telly and this was on. So there. Funny thing about Souls is that I kept picturing Joan Jett in the role of Kris Pulaski. Don’t know why … though I might have to do with the fact that Joan Jett played a receptionist at a motel (or was it a bartender???) in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Big Driver. Who knows, my brain is weird like that … but I love it. And I know it sounds strange to say but Souls feels like another heavy metal love letter to those of us who miss those days of flannel, spandex, leather and denim. And you can tell by the fact that Hendrix does this quirky thing of naming the chapters in his book with titles of various metal tracks (though there is no chapter with the title “Ride The Lightning”). Good show, Mr. Hendrix. Jolly good show, mate.

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It is October. The scariest month in the year. Halloween, trick or treating, and horror movie marathons on AMC, SYFY and just about any cable network that has a pulse. And so I decide to read something a wee bit scary. This is one of those “whispery” books that beckoned to me at my branch. Yes, I am beginning to think that I need to get out more when books start “whispering” to me AND turn out to be great reads. Secret superpower? Or the immense need to socialize more? Whatever, mates. But enough with the bollocks and let’s carry on, yeah?
It starts out in London where a newly engaged couple is setting up plans for an impending wedding. Meet Adam Holzer, a not-so-religious Jew from Long Island, and his bride-to-be Meryam Karga, a former Muslim turned atheist. Aye, love in the twenty-first century. So strange, unusual yet so delightful. Oui? Non? They’ve both co-authored books based on their high-climbing adventures around the world. So when an earthquake reveals a secret cave on Mount Ararat, in Turkey, the fearless duo wants to be the first to find out what’s in the cave. The cave is actually the buried remains of an ancient ship that many believes to be Noah’s ark. And so Meryam cancels her wedding and the two heads off to what seems to be another adventure. So along with a team of scholars, archeologists, filmmakers, one UN representative, and an undercover DARPA agent, they ascend Mount Ararat. There is a team of guides, headed by an early established wanker named Hakan Ceven, the lead the way to the caves. Upon entering the caves, the territorial pissings begin between the different groups in view of this historical find … until they discover a coffin with a cadaver with HORNS. And then the shit hits the fan. For the most, such as yours truly, would have called it a day and started my descent, but of course that would bring the book to an abrupt and crappy end. So the team decides to indulge their curiosity and the reader is in for a case of the heebie-jeebies … on steroids. So needless to say, things started to go bump in the night (aside from the occasional couple from the team that decides to indulge in a bit of the old in-out, in-out) and blood started to splatter, as team members started to disappear and feel strange things in the cave. Bloody hell. Pun possibly intended.
Ararat in nutshell is The Thing meets the Exorcist meets Fallen (there goes that Rolling Stones song in my head) meets the Mummy meets Cliffhanger. A lot of meetings if you ask me. Enough to make you want to keep the light on at night and would probably suck if you were camping, found a deep cave, and this just happens to be the only book you brought to read on your hike (yeah, sweet dreams on that one, luv). Golden weaves a terrifying tale with so many twists and turns that hurtles in break-neck speed towards an ending that leave you stunned shitless (possibly requiring a cleaner pair of undies). Caution: try not to get too attached to any of the of the characters. You’ve been warned. Good reading …and um … sweet dreams

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I simply had to take this book home. One look at is creepily designed book cover along with the synopsis pretty much signaled “must-read-by-the –fire” book, which is weird since I don’t have a fireplace and live in a condo. But there it is, yet another book beckoning to me and turning out to be a great read (in my humblest opinion). But enough with me and let’s get on with it … yeah?

In the town of Deer Valley, lives Stevie Clark and his cousin Jude Brighton. I know what you’re thinking… with a name like Deer Valley, this going to be one of those “white-picket fences and all before Cujo attacks” story. Nay, not quite. Stevie Clark has a speech impediment and, needless to say, is a bit of an outcast at school. His cousin Jude, is also a bit of an outcast and loner, but the two spends their time together in the woods building tree forts. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Stevie is lorded over by a dick of stepfather (with a capital D) named Terry Marks and is adoringly referred to as “The Tyrant”. It won’t take long for most readers to hate this tosser. I promise you. Jude and Stevie’s foray into the woods is always fun, but there is a limit to their explorations in those woods since there is a house that everyone whispers about and never ventures close to it. You know that house, every town has one of them. Though, as someone growing up in the 70s, the only scary thing such houses had to offer was that, at worse, the possibility of me stumbling upon a swinger’s orgy and then my poor parent’s would to do some modified explanation of the bird and bees. I’ve said too much already … and detoured a wee bit.
Interestingly enough, Crept is actually two stories being told that leads to a horrifying convergence. The other is about Rosamund (Rosie) and Ansel Aleksander. A decent couple settling in Deer Valley, and trying to start a family. After a miscarriage, a bereft Rose runs away for a while where along the way she encounters the interesting Ras and his Happy hope retreat. After a puzzling yet restful one-night stay over at the retreat, Rose returns to Ansel and before you can start singing “Reunited” tragedy strikes and Ansel is no more. Rose is also pregnant.
Meanwhile, Jude has disappeared and for more than a week, Deep Valley searches for him, fearing the worst … until one day he casually shows up. Aye, there are more red flags waving that a Bloods gang convention at this point. At first all seems well, but Jude is not. His mother, Mandy, is over-joyed at his return, so much that she overlooks the growing horror that lurks in Jude. The terror that, only, Stevie has seen and witnessed in action. Crept hurtles at terrifying pace as these two story lines intersect into a shit-inducing, terrifying tale. The kind that wakes you up at night in coldsweats and chills, with that sensation of icy fingers crawling up your spine. Pay attention to the Ras character, and you will truly appreciate the horrifying conclusion. And that’s all I can say since I’d be a tosser in spoiling a really good horror story for you. The kind that’ll make you scream “Bloody hell” and drop the book as if it suddenly glowed red-hot in your hands.
Creepy (and vicious) as hell, Ms. Alborn’s Devil Crept In is the kind of book you’ll want to read on a moonless night, complete with howling winds and tree branches tapping at your window. Or maybe that’s just me. Others might do well to keep the lights on and possibly resist the urge of going down into darkened basements. Just saying, mates.

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Once in awhile, though seemingly quite often for me, a book cover or synopsis catches your eye and that’s all it takes to send you hurtling down that literary rabbit hole. December is a month of wishes. Wishes for things under your Christmas tree/mistletoe like Gillian Anderson, and before the day is done there will be wishes for the New Year. And we could really, really use some good stuff for the new year, since 2016 has been a wee bit surreal (and that’s just saying it nicely). So when I came across Dead Souls on the “New Arrivals” rack I was intrigued and like a heroin addict that’s been working overtime at a heroin factory… I had to get my fix. What was all that bollocks about “wishes” about, you might ask? Stick around, mate.

Fiona Dunn is having a tough time in her relationship with some bloke named Justin and on one rainy night in Oakland (California) she sees him getting in a car with a strange blonde woman on his way to a “business trip” to Seattle. It is also important to mention that lady was standing in the rain, bare feet, in pajamas, and locked out of her own apartment. So what’s a bare-footed, rain-soaked, woman to do when she’s locked herself outside of her apartment? Seek solace in the nearest drinking hole. There she meets a strange, enigmatic fellow named Scratch who chats her up, buys her drinks and makes an offer for her soul with the obligation of special favour that will be demanded of her at anytime. Yes, you didn’t read the last part incorrectly. Being the avowed atheist, she is, she thinks it nothing more than small talk and goes along with it. And then the shit gets real … and strange. First, Fiona discovers that she sort of project herself, invisibly, into places and spy on people. Apparently, she’s always wished that she was invisible. And if that didn’t make her stop and pass rabbits, then there is Scratch’s strange ability to be able to contact her at any place at any time. And then … when things couldn’t get any more weird, Justin shows up … with that strange blonde who is actually his (yes) sister and it turns out that Justin is down with something terminal. As Fiona drives around California trying to assess the how much crazy pills she’s been taking, she comes across another strange fellow, taking photos in a cemetary, named Alejandro and he seems to fancy her. Turns out that Fiona and Alejandro has a lot in common: Scratch. He introduces her to a sort of support group called the Dead Souls (hence the name of the book), sort of a support group for folks that may have unwittingly sold their souls to the Devil. And quite the motley crew they are: Renata (a professor of queer studies that wished to be straight and pretty crapped on her career and former gay relationship), Gary (a tech startup founder who wished that his company traded well), Jasmine (a woman that wished for the gift of clairvoyance), and of course, Alejandro (who wished that his photos will make successful). Sounds like a cute version of Daniel Webster meets an intervention. Not quite. The book gets really dark faster than the Northeast in early fall and people and things aren’t all that they seem. And as people wait for that dreaded favour to come in, many try to solve their way out of their contract with Scratch only to find that they are all part of some sick Macheveillian game.

To call Fenn’s tale creepy would be like calling the Mona Lisa a drawing. It’s dark like night in the swamps and as vicious as the serpents that slither through it as every page turn keeps you biting your nails as you brace for revelations within revelations. Don’t expect any happy endings in this one … just maybe a few silver linings and that’s it. In some strange way it might explain some of the unspeakable things that happen in this world: active shootings, terrorism, strange politics, Kanye West, the Kardashians. But what do you expect … when you make a deal with the Devil. Sure he delivers … but when it’s time to pay those dues… that’s the killer. So just be careful when you’re at the pub and some hip bloke “playfully” offers to buy your soul, you might want to walk away from that one … regardless what you believe. Just saying, mates.

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